By William Boyd

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Quite possibly. I was a jealous child. I still have that abrupt and destructive jealousy within me. It has cost me dearly, once, as you shall see. My neutrality towards Gregor swiftly disappeared. I hated him. He was the first person I hated. I have said he was a quiet baby; he was almost suspiciously mute, in fact. But one week he was colicky, or teething. He squealed and girned all day, his wretched noise even keeping me from the kitchen. Oonagh would pick him up, sing to him, swing him round, pat his back.

He was wrong. I failed as dismally there (in all but one subject) as I would have elsewhere. His truculent conviction that the Barnton village school held the answer had the irritating side effect of a long daily journey there and back by train. Every morning I would catch the 6:42 from Waverley Station to Barnton (whence I had a fifteen-minute walk to the school) and in the evening, if I was lucky, I would catch the 4:30 train back. Thompson had a ten-minute ride on a cable tram to handy Regent Road, while I spent up to two hours a day commuting to and from school.

Thompson and my father were irregular companions, Thompson at school, my father at work. I grew up, almost entirely, in the care and charge of our housekeeper, Oonagh McPhie. She had a succession of scullery maids who helped in the kitchen, made the fires, swept and cleaned, and Oonagh’s husband, Alfred, looked in every day to bring up coal if the bunker needed replenishing. But everything was controlled by Oonagh. During the day between breakfast and supper it was her demesne and answered to her sway.

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